What It’s Like To Lose Your Son In Combat

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US Army Sergeant First Class Kristoffer Domeij. Killed In Action Oct. 22, 2011.

A dull, expressionless general from Washington delivered a mechanical script expressing the country’s appreciation for Kristoffer’s sacrifice. He flinched at my reply. “I’d have preferred you used a drone to drop a bomb and take out the Taliban commander’s compound.”

As shell-shocked, grieving families left Fisher House, another load checked in. The chaplain said they’d only planned on fifty deaths in 2011 and the toll was nearing 400. It was surreal watching a refrigerated coffin bearing my son’s lifeless body move from the plane to the transport vehicle. As it pulled out of my sight and into the morgue, I longed to hug my son.

I needed more details from Charles. During the mission, he was on a headset and shared what he could. I can’t even imagine the horror the Rangers experienced that night, because two other people also died and many others were wounded. I agonized. Did my son suffer?

Charles’ assurance that Kristoffer was spared any pain helped me from obsessing whether my son suffered or not. The explosion from the victim-activated IED was so powerful that Kristoffer felt nothing. I praised El Shamayim, The God of The Heavens, (Psalms 136:26) who whisked my son, healed and whole, away to heaven. The target that night was a Pakistani Taliban commander with expertise as an IED maker. His booby-trapped compound contained bomb-making supplies awaiting assembly to explode and kill more people, mostly innocent Afghanis. This particular IED maker was very skilled. Most aren’t. So capturing this guy was crucial to saving a lot of Afghani and American lives. I couldn’t help think: How did this Pakistani Taliban commander think that “loving your Afghani neighbor as yourself” includes blowing them up?

Off and on over the coming months I wondered about the IED maker who I presumed was locked up in custody. Who was he? What was his name? What about his family? Every multi-starred General I met said, “If you need anything, let us know.” I wanted to know the name of the man responsible for my son’s death. I wished to meet Mr. Taliban Commander and tell him about Jesus. But I figured asking permission to visit Mr. IED in Afghanistan would never receive approval.

Somewhere I learned Mr. IED’s code name, which my Teflon brain can’t remember. But learning he’d been killed made me feel ill inside. His death was not satisfying. I wasn’t pleased with Mr. IED’s career choice, but did I hate him? No. I just kept thinking. Did anyone ever tell him about God’s heart of love toward him?

I also wanted the longitude and latitude of the spot where my son died to look up on Google Earth. I wanted to see the spot that absorbed my son’s lifeblood. It’s strange that so many Afghanis and military personnel know the details of that apocalyptic night. But the family, who needs as much information as possible to help us process our heart’s worst apocalypse, is redacted out of the information pool and left in the dark.

An older, mature Christian called me and read her journaling about that ‘wicked horrible person who killed my son’ thinking her diatribe would comfort me. It didn’t. Another person thought I’d be comforted by his email condemning the war—NOT! How could that thoughtless and probably spineless idiot think I’d be comforted by political views that basically communicated—your son died in vain. A media firestorm hit. My phone never stopped ringing. I’d answer what I thought was a business call, only to discover someone from the media wanting an interview about Kristoffer or requesting personal family pictures. As a proud mom, I felt muzzled. When a mom’s child is killed, a mom needs to talk about their child. We just want everyone in the entire world to know how amazing our child is/was. Kristoffer had left orders not to talk to the media. He was just doing his job and didn’t want any publicity.

I Googled Kristoffer’s name and created a Google email alert. Media stories from around the world poured into my inbox. I clicked on every link and saved a PDF of every news story, until my Mac’s hard drive blew up, destroying every photo I owned of Kristoffer. As a writer, I joked that my son made the Washington Post, Huffington Post, the UK’s Daily Mail, Fox News and other major networks before my writing did. His friend posted on Facebook: Kris, you made national news . . . because you deserve national news. just wish they spelt your name right bud. TC mark

This has been an excerpt from Violence of Action: The Untold Stories of the 75th Ranger Regiment in the War on Terror.

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